Air New Zealand appears to have quickly bounced back from the blow of Auckland’s second lockdown after it sold 70,000 seats in just six hours on Monday.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she was to axe social distancing on transport immediately, which led to the Kiwi flag carrier launching a flash sale to fill previously unoccupied middle seats.
“From Tāmaki Makaurau – Tāhuna, Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Ōtautahi were hot destinations, and it’s terrific to see customers snap up flights to Waihōpai, Whangārei and Kerikeri too,” said the business’ chief executive, Greg Foran. “There was also strong demand for bookings for travel out of Ōtautahi and Te Whanganui-a-Tara.”
In total, Air New Zealand revealed it sold more than 110,000 seats, compared with the usual 31,000 per day pre-COVID-19.
The sale saw 180,000 of its cheapest fares available for booking across all 20 ports, with 9,000 of those coming during the upcoming school holidays. Some 160,000 fares were offered for under $50.
The Kiwi flag carrier first axed social distancing in June but was forced to reintroduce the measure after the country experienced an apparent second wave of COVID-19 cases, which also led to flights from Auckland being temporarily cancelled. Passengers will still be asked to wear masks on all flights.
Air New Zealand revealed that while planes could be filled to capacity, a new policy will limit the number of passengers in domestic lounges to 100 at any given time.
The airline estimates it’s now flying approximately 200,000 seats per week, which is around 70-75 per cent of pre-COVID-19 capacity.
Internationally, the picture is less positive. Last week, Air New Zealand blamed the resurgence of COVID-19 for its decision to send many of its 777s to desert boneyards in Roswell, New Mexico, and Victorville, California.
The airline also announced the grounding of its entire 777 fleet would be extended from the end of 2020 until “at least” September 2021.
Now the flag carrier’s international schedule will be operated by more fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliners, with A320s and A320/21neos flying trans-Tasman and Pacific routes.
The resumption of full capacity will be a tonic to the business after it recorded an enormous statutory loss before tax of $575 million (NZ$629 million) for the last financial year.
Pre-coronavirus, the airline recorded an interim profit of $181 million (NZ$198 million) for the first half of the financial year, before restrictions led to an almost three-quarter drop in passenger revenue.
The inclusion of school holiday flights in the sale is likely a reaction to Air New Zealand reporting record passenger numbers for the July school holidays.